September 30, 2009: Veggies for the Kids

The kids came over today, and nearly 43 pounds of tomatoes were picked. They ran the gamut from green to ripe and every shade in between. Seems like John loves fried green tomatoes! My, there are still a LOT of tomatoes out there, but it's supposed to get into the thirties tonight, so it's possible no more will be picked.

Scott also took a grocery bag full of green peppers, a bunch of carrots, four large green onions, a bowl of cherry tomatoes and a bunch of parsley...and I forgot to weigh them before he left! I am going to give it an educated guess though, as I need every ounce I can get to reach 1000 pounds. I'm sure there were at least five pounds of peppers in that bag (probably more), the carrots I've been pulling have come in between 11-13 ounces, so I'll call these 12 ounces, onions will count as 6 ounces and the parsley at 2 ounces. I won't worry about the cherry tomatoes. I'm up to 973.685 pounds! I have no doubts the parsnips will bring it up to goal.

September 29, 2009: Post #2

With my counter filled with tomatoes and peppers, I needed to get busy and do something with them today. My daughter, Amy, loved the sweet chili sauce I sent with her a few days ago, so I decided to make a double batch of that.

With Kleenexes, antihistamines and coffee at hand, I got the tomatoes washed and sorted, and ended up with my big soup pot full of ripe ones. I set them on the stove to simmer and soften.

Then I ran them through the colander to remove the skins and seeds.

I went out to the garden and picked all the remaining peppers from the potted plants I'd brought back from AZ last spring. These peppers never did get as large as those planted directly into the garden, but they performed pretty well.

With what I had left from earlier pickings, there were more than enough for the four cups of chopped peppers I needed for a double batch of sauce. Two large bags had to be stored in the refrigerator to be used for something else. None of my jalapeno peppers got hot this year, so I used all of these in the sauce. They are as sweet as red bells!

Tomatoes, peppers, onions, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices began simmering on the stove.

Two hours later, the sauce still hadn't thickened quite enough, so I transferred it to my largest crockpot and let it cook on high, uncovered, for the rest of the day.

By the time I got dinner dishes done, the sauce was ready to can. I could only find 2 pint jars and a dozen half pint jars, which turned out to be just barely enough. I now have one empty half pint jar in the entire house! This gives me 21 pints of sweet chili sauce for the year, which should be more than enough for both Amy and me. See that little vinegar cruet behind the jars? That is all that is left from the four gallons of vinegar I've purchased this summer!

September 29, 2009: A Half-ton of Produce?

I just went over 900 pounds from the garden for 2009. Will I hit 1000 pounds? There are still tomatoes to be harvested, as well as carrots and parsnips. My neighbor is picking all the remaining peppers and green beans, but has been told to weigh everything. It should be real close!

September 28, 2009: Monday Harvest

*Each week Daphne's Dandelions hosts Monday Harvest. Be sure to visit her blog to see who is harvesting what this week!*

I'm late, I'm late for a very important date
No time to say "Hello", "Goodbye"
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late

I'm late for Monday Harvest. It seems as though I've been late for nearly everything these past few weeks. I did recuperate enough to get to the grocery store today, and I got out to the garden long enough to pick more tomatoes and a bit of mesclun for the rabbit. My neighbor and I visited across the fence, and she commented that my green peppers were the sweetest she had ever eaten. I invited her to grab her bucket and help herself to some more, as I want to get all the tender crops harvested by Wednesday, then I'll pull the plants. Of course, right after that my daughter called and said she wanted more peppers, 'cause today she did stuffed peppers topped with my home canned sweet chili sauce and it was "awesome". So I hope Pat didn't pick all the peppers! I thought the 13 1/2 pints of sweet chili sauce that I canned this year was overkill, but with everyone loving it, I might have to do one more batch. It would be a good way to get rid of the kitchen counter full of tomatoes that are staring at me and screaming to be cooked.

9/22 - 12 oz. parsnips, 24 oz. bush beans, 2 pounds 8 oz. tomatoes. It had been a bit of a dry spell on green beans, as I'm letting the pole beans dry for seed. This late planting of bush beans was quite welcome, and tasted even better than the spring beans did.

9/24 - 3 pounds 2 oz. cucumbers, 4 pounds 3 oz. tomatoes. I'm beginning to pick tomatoes that are showing any little bit of color. It won't be long until the vines freeze, and they are just loaded with green tomatoes....seems such a waste to lose them.

9/26 - 6 pounds 4 oz. bell peppers that went to my daughter.

9/25 - 4 pounds 7 oz. tomatoes, 9 oz. strawberries, 6 oz. jalapenos, 10 oz. bell peppers, 6 oz. bush beans, 4 oz. cucumbers

9/27 - 6 pounds 4 oz. tomatoes

9/28 - 6 pounds tomatoes, 5 oz. lettuce/mesclun, 5 oz. bell peppers

My counter is full of produce, the refrigerator is bulging. The cucumber vines have been pulled, and the last zucchini plant will probably go tomorrow, along with the Juliet tomato.

Total harvest for week: 38 pounds
Total harvest for year: 889.6 pounds

September 26, 2009: The Season Begins to Wind Down

I haven't been very active in the garden this week, as I'm still a bit under the weather. I was well on my way to getting over the flu bug, when I relapsed and ended up with a nasty sinus infection. Needless to say, there's been very little gardening or cooking.

I did cook that beautiful parsnip I dug the other day. I sliced it and fried it in butter, with a pinch of sugar, until it was golden and caramelized. Mr. H won't eat parsnips, but Otto (the boy dog) and I ate the whole thing. It was delicious! We had to hide from Annie. Since she has a bit of a weight problem, I didn't think butter fried parsnips would be very good for her.

The 12 ounce parsnip

I've had a pile of Royal Burgundy beans drying out on the patio for a couple of weeks. These are the ones I planted for my neighbor. I had asked her to leave a few pods on the vines for next year's seeds, and she was getting anxious to get them pulled out, so I just piled them on the park bench and let them dry.

It didn't look like many once I got the pods pulled from the vines.

But there were actually quite a few beans in the pods.

To be exact, there were 440 beans in the pods! That should be plenty for me and Just Jenn next spring. This is my first year of seed saving, so I hope they are all OK!

As much as I didn't feel like cooking, the tomatoes were screaming at me to do something. The easiest thing to do was toss them all in a pot, heat them up, puree them in the food processor, sieve out the seeds and peelings, then put them back in the pot and make tomato sauce. I put three cups of thick sauce in the freezer from this batch of tomatoes.

I'm forcing myself to start putting my garden to bed for the winter. It's difficult for me to tear out something that is still productive, but I'll be leaving for Arizona in three short weeks. I picked the cucumbers and pulled all the vines. It was such a good year for them, I have many jars of pickles and relish, and Mr. H still has a bunch of them in the refrigerator for his salads.

I pulled the cherry tomato from the corner of the patio. It was one that didn't have a lot of flavor and really, I don't need more tomatoes! Once this area is cleaned up, I'll be planting those strawberries that are in the red cups. I think they will be a nice edible ground cover . The buckets in the background got scrubbed and stored in the shed, those tomato cages stacked in a corner for next year.

Daughter Amy came over tonight, so I talked her into taking home a basket of bell peppers. There were more than five pounds in this picking, and a lot more still in the garden. She loves peppers, as does my son Scott, so I'll make sure he gets a basket full of them too. Amy is going to make stuffed peppers in the crockpot, so I gave her a jar of my sweet chili sauce to pour over them. I think the sauce will compliment the flavor of the peppers, meat and rice.

September 22, 2009: In Addition to the Previous Post...

In today's earlier post, I told how the parsnips killed the lettuce seedlings. Out of curiosity, I just dug one up to see just how large they are now. Even in my loose soil, it was quite the job getting that thing out of the ground. The tops alone are over 4' high! The root wasn't as large as I though it would be, but it was pretty darned big.

It's a lot bigger then the spading fork I used to dig it out! The root is 15" long, and 10" around at its widest part.

September 22, 2009: Home Made Seed Mat Tutorial

There are several ways to plant small seeds, such as carrots. You can scatter the seeds by hand, in a row, then spend a lot of time thinning out the excess plants so the survivors have room to mature. Another way is to put them in in a container with a shaker top, sprinkle them over a wide row and, when the tiny plants emerge, carefully draw a garden rake through them to thin them. I prefer to make seed mats, which work especially well in a square foot type garden. These seed mats take very little time to make, and there is absolutely no thinning and wasting of plants. Following is a tutorial I shot using lettuce seeds. Carrots would be done the same, but with closer spacing.

Start with a cheap paper napkin. Test it to make sure it will disintegrate quickly in the garden. Wet a corner and see if it easily tears with your fingers....if it does, you're good to go. This napkin was purchased from the grocery store, and it proved to be a bit too flimsy as it let the glue seep through to the other side. If that happens, just hang it over a clothes hanger to dry. If you can get some napkins from a fast food place they work perfectly.

I use a Sharpie pen to make dots at the proper distances. Here, with lettuce seeds, I'm placing the dots about 4" apart in all directions. Note the first row has three dots, the second row two dots, the third row three dots, etc. For carrots I would put the dots 1-2 inches apart in all directions. Be sure to protect your work surface, as the ink will bleed through. I also write the name of the seed on the napkin at this time, which helps when I'm planting several different varieties.

Using a water soluble glue, I place a dot of glue on each mark.

Sprinkle a few seeds out onto a plate (or the table) so they are spread out just a bit. Dampen a toothpick or the end of a pencil (just spit on it!) and pick up one seed at a time and touch it to a spot of glue. Try not to get the glue on the toothpick, spit works (releases) much better.

There. I have 13 seeds on each of my squares. That's a few more than I should have, but I find this spacing to work just fine for cut and come again crops.

I lay out my five seed mats to dry. They contain the seeds of five varieties of lettuce.

When the mats are dried, they can be stored until ready for use. I'm going to plant mine, so I mix up a bucket of compost and vernmiculite and head for the garden.

I prepare the seed bed and rake it smooth.

Four mats fit perfectly in the four foot wide bed.

I sprinkle a bit of my compost-vermiculite mixture over them to hold them in place.

Then I cover them completely, to a depth of about 1/4 inch...or just enough to cover all the mats so no paper shows.

I tamp it firmly with the rake.

Then carefully water it.

It's all ready to grow!

The carrots on the left in this bed were planted 2" apart on seed mats. Germination was very close to 100%, and there was no thinning. After I covered these mats with vermiculite/compost and watered them, I covered them with a board. After 4-5 days I checked daily for any sight of growth. Once growth was detected, the board was removed. These were planted on June 28th (photo taken August 10) and are now being harvested.

Now I'll have to tell you that, although I got nearly 100% germination from my earlier mat-planted carrot seeds, this lettuce bed was a bust. The seeds all germinated and I had some tiny little plants, but a wind storm toppled those parsnips over, breaking the barrier I had made, and smashed the lettuce plants to pieces. I did find three survivors that were moved to another area, but all the others were lost. So go the ups and downs of gardening.

September 21, 2009: Monday Harvest

*Each week Daphne's Dandelions hosts Monday Harvest. Be sure to visit her blog to see who is harvesting what this week!*

9/14 - 20 oz. bell peppers, 10 oz. carrots, 23 oz. melon, 38 oz. cucumbers, 5 oz. strawberries, 21 oz. zucchini (to son, not shown)

9/15 - 56 oz. tomatoes, 9 oz. cucumbers

9/17 - 6 pounds 5 oz. beets, 13 oz. carrots, 4 pounds 7 oz. zucchini, 2 pounds 7 oz. cucumbers, 12 oz. bell peppers, 6 oz. strawberries, 5 oz. jalapeno peppers, 1 pound 11 oz. tomatoes, 2 pounds 3 oz. melons

9/18 - 3 oz. jalapenos, 3 oz. onions, 3 oz. herbs (parsley), 3 oz. strawberries, 34 oz. tomatoes

9/19 - 36 oz. tomatoes, 10 oz. lettuce/mesclun, 5 oz. cucumber, 1 oz. jalapenos

9/20 - 34 oz. cucumber (one huge cucumber that was hiding! Yes, it still tasted sweet.), 1 oz. spinach, 51 oz. tomatoes, 4 oz. beets, 11 oz. carrots, 24 oz. green bell peppers (for neighbor, not shown.

Total harvest for week: 42 pounds
Total harvest for year: 852 pounds

September 19, 2009: The Adventures of the Little Talking Box

It's been almost a year now since EG, of Our Engineered Garden, sent me a little surprise. It was a lovely jar of pear preserves, packed inside what we now lovingly call "The Little Talking Box". The little box has had quite a journey in these past months, and has now returned home to Alabama, with a jar of strawberry jam from my garden. EG is thinking maybe it would be fun to send Little Talking Box on some more exciting journeys, so I thought this would be a good time to introduce you to the past adventures of the little box. Please click on the links below the pictures to follow its journey from Alabama to Washington to...."Where in the World is EG's Little Traveling Box?".....

The little box comes home

The little box went to Jackpot, Nevada, but he was packed in the back of the Ranger, and I couldn't get to him. Then he went to Las Vegas, but I was too busy driving to get photos. He also visited London Bridge at Lake Havasu City, AZ, and the camera batteries were dead!

It's been a lot of fun, Little Talking Box. I'll miss ya!

September 18, 2009: When Pigs Fly, Swine Flu

You know, when I was a little kid.......for that matter, when my kids were little kids, if we had a runny nose and sneezed a lot, we had a cold. Add a bad cough to that and we had a chest cold. If we had a headache and fever with the other symptoms, we had a sinus infection. If we had a belly ache, vomiting and (sometimes) diarrhea, we had the flu. When did the flu symptoms become the same as our old cold/sinus infection symptoms? How can one tell if they have the flu, or just a bad cold/sinus infection? I would assume, since I have a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, headache and fever, that I have the flu. I have plain old everyday flu, or do I have swine flu? I caught it from a kid who caught it at school. The schools here are filled with sick kids. Not too many miles from us, Washington State University has reported more than 2000 cases of swine flu.

Since I don't know what I have, I guess I won't worry about it. Just don't come to visit me.

ETA: I do not have swine flu...sorry if I gave that impression! I was just wondering about so many illnesses having the same symptoms. I have been fever-free for 24 hours, and just feeling a bit dehydrated and tired from being sick all week. Thanks to all who felt sorry for me. I did too *wink*.